Words and photos brought to you by Seattle Photographer, Jake Garrett

After our time stranded at Snoqualmie Pass, followed by a quick Christmas and a few more days of shredding Summit Central (the pass was still with out power) the word from both the patrollers and PSE was that power would be back on; Alpental would be reopening. Paul, my local source of all things snow sent me a text around 1am Saturday morning, power was back on and the patrollers were making preparations to open Alpental, it was going to be insanely deep. As dawn rolled around and I was up filling my Stanley with coffee, Snoqualmie officially declared that Alpental would be running, I was packed and on my way with the hopes that my insider information got me a few minutes head start to get that first chair glory.

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The drive up was quick; the parking lots were relatively empty, and the energy was a mixture of excitement for deep conditions and “I’m a local and I need first chair”. The chatter in line was mostly stoke with a few doughnuts passed around and all I could think about was the game of G.N.A.R. as some people were making breakfast in line, well done dudes. As 8:30 AM rolled around the pro patrol crew gave everyone the safety speech, the focus was tree wells which Alpental is notorious for- big black holes of the mountain. After a few words from the patrol team the chair began to spin, the energy level jumped and people strapped in. I was among the first 15 people to get on the chair along with Paul and few other friends of the mountain. Jay, Jamie, Sophia and all the others were a few chairs behind us and at some point in the day we would cross paths, but for now it was all about getting deep untouched powder turns.

Absolute chaos as people loaded the first few chairs; maybe a few peoples excitement got the best of them as the four to a chair expectation had some ones and threes intermixed with in it… Alpental like any good resort with terrain that builds savage riders, likes to see full chairs on powder days and those who could not count to four were rained upon with “boos” and threats of ass kicking’s as the powder hungry crowd below wanted their share of first tracks. Its actually quite hilarious to watch a 40 year old dude rattle off “I’m a local, this is my mountain” followed by some first grade level insults and threats to have each others passes pulled, but it might have just made everyone ride a little harder, because people were sending it. It was quite possibly the best in-bounds powder day at Alpental that I have seen since maybe 2007…

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Unfortunately we left our snorkeling gear at home…

The first few hours were spent sending it by myself, garnishing some of the first tracks down upper International where I made maybe 4-6 turns total. It was a vast untouched canvas and I was feeling the high-speed, minimalist vibe. After that there was no reason to leave Chair 2, the snow was so deep that even in someone else’s tracks you were still in thigh deep powder. The name of the game was ridding up with the patrollers, every time they skied by yelling out “single” I would be first to yell back, it was the only way to get laps in as the chair line (although it moved quickly) was wrapped all the way to the first chair. Everything was firing, all cliffs were game, every hit was sent 20-30ft further then normal and those who could send it were absolutely sending it!

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Jamie sets up for the drop

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 Jamie Baril, finding the line and taking it deep

Jamie, who quite possibly is one of the most excited and fun skiers to rip with, was on fire. At this point in the morning I was taking chairs up with patrollers and on every ride up Jamie was in a particular zone that I would be able to watch from the chair. He would be sending the rock faces skiers right of the Fan, kicking off a lip a good 10ft back and taking the Andes cliff ban a good 30 feet out, everything he hit was full of Alpentalic glory smashing through the landings and pinning it through the bumps. Local legends Paul and Jay were in attendance of course, you’d be hard pressed not to figure that they got first tracks down every shoot skiers right of the Fan. Paul picks some wicked lines, most of the season these lines remain untouched with not enough snow to cover the cliffs and hazardous run outs at the bottom, but I suppose if this is where you grew up then these seem like just another day in the park.

Left to right: Nick Marvik, Jamie Baril, Aaron Cardwell and Jay Hergart 

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Nick pinning it down a line in the Elevator zone.

Nick navigating down Ingrid’s Inspiration on the left and Paul Stanly absolutely on fire as he pins it out of a small group of trees in the Elevator zone. 

The day went on as any other powder filled Saturday, too many smiles and hoots of excitement as the crowd of Alpental locals got their fill of powder heaven. It was one for the record books and I can only hope that we have more of these to come as the season presses on. Only the inbounds terrain (as well as Snake Dance) ended up opening that first day back on the hill, the following days would see more and more of the terrain become accessible as the patrol teams worked hard at assessing the snow stability and conditions. Sunday rolled around and Elevator gate, one of the lower side country gates was ready for business as Nick, Jamie, Aaron and myself headed out to find some zones to rip. With little effort and a knowledge that has been with many of us since we were young kids we went to some specific spots that were guaranteed to be good; we were not disappointed. We filled most of the day with steep untouched snow surrounded by ice cream covered trees, threading the needle through the forest as we sent it down some of the heaver side country cliff bans. After stacking some shots and bombing out landings we called it a day and headed back to lot 4. It had been one hell of a reopening weekend at Alpental and it would be easy to say that it was one of the best weekends in recent memory on the ski hill, but I can guarantee that there will be more to come! Until next time…

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Categories: Snow